Business secretary Vince Cable and former defence minister Liam Fox made headlines yesterday with contradictory approaches to public spending. But they agree on that ringfencing entire departments such as the NHS is a mistake.
David Cameron held firm in defence of ringfencing the NHS. Yesterday, on a visit to Milton Keynes he said, “There is one piece of advice that I won’t take, and that is the piece of advice that says you ought to cut the NHS budget(...)"
Mr Cable warned Tory leaders last weekend that Lib Dems would oppose some cuts, and compared the more radical budget proposals to "A kind of ideological jihad against public spending and public services(...)" But he later told BBC Radio 4’s Today Programme that the practice of ringfencing the NHS "means that all future pressures then come on things like the army, the police, local government, skills and universities. So you get a very unbalanced approach to public spending. I went along with the overall ringfencing approach in this parliament – as part of the coalition we have had to work as a team – but I think as a long-term approach to government spending, it isn't very sensible(...)"
Mr Fox, for his part, has demanded a more radical approach: cut taxes and freeze all public spending for 5 year, a move he claims would save £345 billion. The NHS would not be exempt. Mr Fox made his case for the scheme at the Institute of Economic Affairs, saying, “We must also ask whether ringfencing departmental budgets makes sense in a period of prolonged austerity… this is no short, cyclical correction but a longer term structural correction made necessary by both global economic forces and our own history of massive overspending (...)"
What do you think of Mr Cable and Mr Fox in light of their opinions on the Budget?